Forgotten Voices' Mission:

"Demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by equipping local churches in southern Africa to meet the physical & spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS in their communities."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

12/2: Peterson, Education, and Dreams

Giving Voice to the Forgotten: EDUCATION AND EMPOWERMENT

Celebrating future voices in Zimbabwe and Zambia

Well, World AIDS Day is over. As I have become accustomed to doing, I thumbed through quite a few papers today looking for references to the "big news stories" in my world: World AIDS Day, Zimbabwe, AIDS in general, etc. I only saw World AIDS Day referenced in 3 places today: The Metro (aka the shortest, daily newspaper in Boston), MTV, and Facebook. I heard some colleges locally and in PA did special events. I was pumped about that. And some churches, as well. But in most of the papers I looked at or on the news shows I watched/listened to today, I was sad to see/hear World AIDS Day receive exactly ZERO mentions.

AIDS is still here, even though it's December 2. I know I'm not breaking any news. We move on. It's what we do in America, but I hope you take this month of stories with you.

There are reams of research papers that outline the various components of “empowerment” for children. You can read some of these reports here. Overall, one of the main indicators of empowerment is primary education. Without even basic education, a society will fail to operate effectively. One of the tragedies of the Zimbabwean spiral down over the past decade has been the steady decline in children attending school. Zambia, while more stable, also faces tough challenges regarding primary education. In both cases, WAY too many kids are not in school, but should be. The main reason: cost. You need to pay a SCHOOL FEE to attend. You can read a more complicated overview & history of Zimbabwe's school systems here.

According to a UN relief official in a recent BBC article, child attendance is down from 90% to 20% over the past few years.

In partnership with local churches in Zimbabwe, Forgotten Voices has sent over 3,000 kids back to school that were not in school because of AIDS related illness in their families. We want to help more. 1,000 kids become orphaned every day in Zimbabwe alone.

And it's not just about sending kids to school. It's about finding teachers, and food, and water, and school materials, etc. Local solutions are needed that go way beyond us just giving them money to send kids to school. That's why we partner with local community leaders, in churches and schools.

One such program is with the Mtshabezi AIDS Clinic, featured in the video from yesterday’s post, and a nearby school called the Mtshabezi Primary School (pictured here). 125 kids out of about 700 are in school here because of a partnership between Forgotten Voices and the BICC National AIDS Programme.

This school is one of the best primary schools I've seen in Zimbabwe, with a headmaster known for their passion for learning and innovative ways to make the dollar stretch, without impacting education. Some of the kids you have met before (Peterson and Prudence) attended this school. Prudence, you may remember, passed away a couple years ago after a tough battle with AIDS. Her brother, Peterson, moved away this past January to live with their grandparents and other relatives, so he wouldn’t have to live by himself any longer. Side note: I will be with him in January.

Before Peterson returned to school shortly before his mother’s death from AIDS related illnesses, I remember talking with him about his hopes and dreams. To be honest, at the time, he didn’t have many. He didn’t know what life would be like at school. At the time, he just seemed anxious to be a kid again and meet some new friends. After returning to school, his teachers would later tell me and his Pastor that Peterson is a bright boy, with lots of promise, who is shy around strangers. Now, Peterson wants to be a film maker or a business man or musician or something else, entirely. He is still pretty young. And be honest! How many of you out there know what you are going to be when you grow up?

But Peterson, like so many kids I’ve met, is now dreaming dreams because he is able to fathom life after school. Actively dream about a life with some school. Hopefully lots of it! Before your help, dreams like that were not possible for many of them.

Through your gifts, you are helping make dreams possible. You are helping give voice to the forgotten. Kids who were once sitting on the sidelines, watching other kids grow up with an education.

Tomorrow and a couple times this week, we’ll meet some of the kids that aren’t going to school that should be. Most of their names won't be real, to protect them. But know that I know them and I'm happy to prove it. :) I believe all of God's children deserve a champion... a person who is crazy about them and wants to let the whole world know why they are special. I look forward to you meeting them and dreaming with us.

I encourage you to pass along this blog to your friends and share how your gifts are helping “Give Voice to the Forgotten” this Christmas season and in the years ahead. Thanks for reading.


To give a gift today and Give a Voice back to the Forgotten, visit our website at

1 comment:

Krista Photography said...

I love Peterson! Him playing piano was one of the highlights of the trip :) Tell him I say hello when you see him next month!